SEATTLE – The Colorado Rapids pointed to a long list of positives heading into the resolution of their MLS Western Conference Championship series with the Seattle Sounders on Sunday (4 pm ET, ESPN, TSN2). But there was one negative none of the Rapids bothered trying to dismiss.
The team will be without midfielder and captain Sam Cronin. He entered the match one caution away from a suspension, and that yellow card was shown in the 67th minute of the Sounders’ 2-1 win Tuesday in Seattle.
“That’s huge,” Colorado defender Marc Burch said. “He’s our captain. He makes this team run. But we’ve got guys ready to step in.”
That dual tone – missing Cronin, trusting his replacement – was echoed up the line by the Rapids, including coach Pablo Mastroeni.
“Obviously, missing Sam is not something that we anticipated,” Mastroeni said. “But one thing we’ve proven this year is … whoever steps in will do a fantastic job, and we’ll find a way to win. I have no concerns about that part of it.”
Cronin is an eight-season MLS veteran. He arrived in Colorado in 2015 after being acquired in a trade with San Jose for allocation money. He soon became one of five players to wear the captain’s armband, and that leadership continued this season, when he recorded one goal and three assists in 33 appearances.
“He’s not only our captain, but he’s been there almost every game of the season,” defender Axel Sjoberg said. “He’s a general in there. Obviously, we’re going to miss him as a presence. Fortunately, we’ve got a very deep squad.”
In most other areas, the Rapids were upbeat as they turned their attention to the Sunday match that will either end their season or send them through to their third MLS Cup appearance, and first since they won it all in 2010.
They pointed to this year's Western Conference Semifinals, where they went one goal down at the LA Galaxy in the first leg, only to advance after a penalty-kick shootout in Colorado. The Rapids believe they’re actually in better shape in this time, due to their away goal, provided by Kevin Doyle in the 13th minute.
They highlighted their defense, which allowed a league-low 32 goals and a league-high 13 shutouts, and noted their mile-high home fortress. Colorado went 11-0-6 this season at Dick's Sporting Goods Park, where 10 of those shutouts and only seven of those goals against were surrendered.
“If we take care of our business at home, that’s what we need to do,” goalkeeper Zac MacMath said. “We definitely have a different mojo [at home]. We definitely take it to teams a little bit more at home, and I think we’ll be able to take advantage of that.”